The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World

By Van Norman, William | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, May 1, 2006 | Go to article overview
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The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World


Van Norman, William, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World Edited by Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. Pp. xii, 455. $70.00 cloth, $27.00 paper.

Editors Toyin Falola and Matt Childs make an important contribution to the study of the African diaspora and the Atlantic world with this new volume of essays. Falola, a scholar of African history, and Childs. a historian of the African diaspora in Cuba, frame this work as a case study that offers insights into the historical processes that shaped the larger diasporic population. They organize the book into four sections centered on the Yoruba in Africa, the diaspora in the Americas, the culture of the diaspora, and the return of Yoruba people to their homeland. By bringing together scholars from four continents and a range of disciplines to explore the history and culture of the Yoruba diaspora on both sides of the Atlantic, they have bridged the ocean in two important ways.

In the first section of the book David Eltis, Paul Lovejoy, and Ann O'Hear create a portrait of the Yoruba people and the processes that created the diaspora. Eltis provides a focus on the scope and range of Yoruba enslavement and dispersal. Lovejoy takes up the question of the origin of Yoruba ethnicity and includes an important discussion of the role of Islam in shaping Yoruba identification. His work also compliments Eltis in examining the demographic trends of the trade in the region. O'Hear explicates the process of enslavement and the internal and external trade in Yorubaland to complete the section.

João José Reis, Beatriz Gallotti Mamigonian, Michele Reid, Russell Lohse, Rosalyn Howard, and Kevin Roberts supply important discussions on the dispersal of the Yoruba throughout the Americas in the second section. Reis and Gallotti Mamigonian show the connections between Yoruba origins and the development of Nagô and Mina identities in Brazil. They carefully demonstrate the religious and ethnic distinctions within the population and how tensions were pragmatically overcome. Reid offers a similar look at the Cuban Yoruba population and how they constructed Lucumi/Yoruba identity through religious associations and cultural replications. Lohse takes the reader into the unexpected territory of colonial Costa Rica, a place with few Yoruba, and shows that a careful reading of sources recovers traces of the Yoruba past. Howard and Roberts shift the focus to the English and French Caribbean comparing Yoruba presence and contributions to the lifeways and culture of diasporic populations in Trinidad, the Bahamas, and Haiti.

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